Alcohol Awareness Week 2016 - Know the Risks of Drinking Too Much
Ask yourself two questions: Do I drink too much alcohol? Am I aware of the damage that drinking too much alcohol can do to me? These could be two important questions this week with Alcohol Concern’s Alcohol Awareness Week (AAW) taking place from the 14th to the 20th November, and the theme being “Knowing the Risks”. The national charity use AAW as an effective means ‘to get people thinking about alcohol – how it affects us as individuals, families, communities and society as a whole’. For example, how many amongst us were aware that excessive alcohol consumption can be attributed to the cause of more than 60 different medical conditions? The most obvious problem most people are aware of is damage caused to the liver, but the health problems extend further than that. Drinking too much can also lead to an increased risk of certain types of cancer, high blood pressure (hypertension), dementia, depression, type 2 diabetes and may even cause brain damage. Alcohol is 10% of the burden of disease and death in the UK, and is one of the three biggest lifestyle risk factors for disease, after smoking and obesity. New health guidelines provide a recommended alcohol limit of 14 units each week for both men and women. One unit works out at about 25ml of whisky, 250ml of beer or 75ml of wine. However, people are drinking much more than this limit. Research actually suggests that almost quarter of adults across the country are chugging back more than the recommended weekly limit of 14 units. Drinking more than the recommended daily and weekly limits on a regular basis can pose serious future health risks. Many people are continuing to consume significantly more than the NHS recommended daily limits without seeing any harms presently. However, the serious hidden harms of alcohol tend to viciously emerge only after a number of years. By this point, the health problems have reached significant levels and it may be too late to rectify the damage. More worrying alcohol-related statistics include the fact that there were 8,697 deaths during 2014 that were down to alcohol abuse, 7.5 million people are unaware of the damage their drinking could be causing, alcohol-related harm costs England an estimated £21 billion per year, with £3.5 billion to the NHS, £11 billion tackling alcohol-related crime and £7.3 billion due to lost work days and productivity costs. Part of the problem with increased national alcohol intake could be connected to the general cheap prices of booze nowadays. Alcohol was found to be about 61% more affordable in 2013 than it was back in 1980. Those concerned about their drinking should speak to their GP as soon as possible without fear of being judge. The GP may assess the level of alcohol misuse, or an assessment may be conducted anyway for those treated with alcohol-related injury or illness. The assessment will normally comprise of multiple screening tests involving a series of questions. It is vital people are fully truthful answering the questions so the GP can provide appropriate treatment. The common tests administered are usually the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), the Fast Alcohol Screening Test (FAST) and the Severity of Alcohol Dependence Questionnaire (SADQ).] One particular effective treatment for alcohol dependency is a medication Medical Specialists® Pharmacy can prescribe to suitable patients and the treatment goes by the name of Selincro. Selincro’s active ingredient nalmefene works by latching onto certain opioid receptors in the brain that are responsible for addictive behaviour, altering their activity, thereby decreasing the urge to continue drinking. People’s urge to drink is not always fully understood, but may be put down to a wide range of factors. Longer-term problems such as anxiety or depression related to a traumatic event (death, break-up) could be behind sustained alcohol abuse problems. However, if you are concerned about your own or someone else's drinking, you can contact Drinkline for a free, confidential conversation on 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am – 8pm, weekends 11am – 4pm). Don’t forget you can also connect with others on social media using the hashtags #KnowTheRisks OR #AAW2016, and Download your guide to Alcohol Awareness Week 2016 here.